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Medical Alerts - The Basics

Updated: Oct 11, 2022

The Medical Alert System was created in the early 1970s by Wilhelm Hormann. Hormann wanted a system to relay urgent biomedical data and social communication. In 1975, American International Telephone Corp., a California-based company offered the first medical alert system. It was a pendant a per1970sson wore who when in distress pushed a button and it called a set of preprogrammed phone numbers. In the 1980’s we all became familiar with the saying "I’ve fallen and can’t get up".


Medical Alert Systems provide protection when no one is around or close by to lend a hand. In addition, technology has drastically changed and improved since its early days. We now have pendants, watches, and systems that do not require a pendant or wristband.

Medical Alert Systems help individuals maintain their quality of life while reassuring their families that they are safe.


Medical Alert Systems are separated into 2 major categories: In-the-Home and On-the-Go. The chart below will provide only a few of the features and benefits of the units:

  • In-the-Home

o Units are ideal for anyone who is homebound or just needs a little extra protection when at home – singles are a great example.

o Use either a traditional landline or cellular connection.

o Waterproof

o Fall Detection is available

o 24/7 Emergency Help is available

  • On-the-Go

o Watches or Pendants

o Wi-Fi and GPS location technology

o Apps for tracking a loved one.

o Water Resistant

o Work anywhere in the US

o Fall Detection is available

o 24/7 Emergency Help is available


One question that is often asked is does the medical alert system have GPS? Every PERs dealer, and the manufacturer of the PERs, knows where the medical alert is located. An advanced combination of GPS and Wi-Fi technology is used, depending on the area, to locate the individual system.


When a family member or caregiver wants to find the individual, if they are a wanderer for example, then a system with real-time tracking should be recommended and utilized.


Another great question is why to use a monitored system versus a non-monitored system.


The first reason is simple – monitored systems always answer. At 3 am when most people are sound asleep and a loved one pushes a button, they will not hear their phone ring (I mean it’s 3 am and they are sound asleep) this means mom is in distress until someone wakes up and checks their phone and on the floor for several hours. A professionally monitored system will always answer.


The second reason is technology updates – a medical alert received through a dealer will always have the latest technology and provide it to you or your clients free of charge. An example is happening now when 3G is being terminated and all dealers are upgrading their clients to new 4G units for free. If you purchased a self-monitored unit, you will be forced to upgrade it or it will not work come the end of the year.


A third reason is location. Anyone who has called 911 in an emergency knows they always ask you for your location – why is that? There are many 911 centers that use old and outdated CAD software (simply no room in the budget for updates). Basically, this means if you need help and are not able to respond 911 might not be able to find you. However, response centers used by medical alert companies all use the most up-to-date software and know where the device is and the person pushing the button.


Finally, we came across the following and decided it was so powerful we had to quote it directly. As quoted from a Reddit article ‘Now, it also depends on the device in question and the infrastructure in the area as to how the call is handled. No voice call from an Apple watch? Very low chance of attendance in any sort of timely manner - just far too many false activations. A no voice call from a dedicated welfare device stating a duress condition or - in the case of eldercare technology - a possible fall - those are attended to in an immediate fashion.’


The main reason people chose a non-monitored or self-monitored system is cost but for less than $1 a day, they can have all the protection they need.


At the end of the day, Medical Alert Systems save lives from catastrophe 1 every 11 minutes. Before purchasing a Medical Alert system, it’s always best to discuss the situation with your loved ones, care manager, or an expert in the field. Please contact us at 1-833-563-0040 or david@personallivingalert.com.

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